Wairua, affect and national commemoration days : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Public Health at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand

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Massey University
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Wairua, a Māori (indigenous peoples of Aotearoa New Zealand) concept, somewhat restrictively translated as spirit or spirituality, resonates with many indigenous peoples globally. While spirit is recognised as an important human dimension, the denigration of non-western spiritual understandings means that indigenous peoples often choose to remain silent. Transferring these concerns to research approaches, we edit our voices, with a view to what we think will count as knowledge and what we choose to share with academic audiences. The aim of my study is to explore wairua and investigate how wairua might provide an analytical approach to understanding emotions and feelings evoked by Waitangi Day and Anzac Day. This project sits within a major research programme “Wairua, Affect and National Days” funded by the Marsden Fund of the Royal Society. The overall objective of the wider project was to explore wairua and the affective politics evoked as people relate, engage and grapple with observance and charged acts of remembrance around national days in Aotearoa New Zealand. Drawing on literature, qualitative in-depth interviews and haerenga kitea, an audio-visual method recording people’s experiences of national days, I arrived at several overlapping domains that provided a starting point for the development of A Wairua Approach (AWA) to research. The literature revealed wairua as a topic that appears in diverse sources but is rarely investigated in its own right; while wairua is acknowledged as central to Māori experience, and ‘in everything’, it is rarely engaged with explicitly in research. People understand and experience wairua in diverse ways, with wairua weaving in and out of everyday life for some people. However, for many Māori, living in a western society that has largely determined what is considered reality, such understandings are often discounted, marginalised and a source of discomfort. A wairua approach, when applied to haerenga kitea data was able to frame participant experiences within wider meanings, relating to diverse concepts such as identity and mana. Addressing wairua explicitly in research, was a challenging exercise, but one that enabled a depth of emotions and feelings to be uncovered.
Maori (New Zealand people), Religion, Spirituality, Waitangi Day, Anzac Day, New Zealand, Anniversaries, etc, Wairua